Student drug testing is a worthy effort
October 14, 2016
There can be no debate about this: Park City schools are facing a dangerous drug problem.
The question that lingers is how the community is going to respond in the coming months and years. For its part, the Park City School District has vowed to spearhead the effort to find a solution, and so far administrators are making good on that promise.
The Board of Education recently discussed the possibility of drug testing high school students who participate in extracurricular activities like athletics and after-school clubs. Such a measure should be welcomed by parents and community members concerned about the prevalence of drugs in schools.
School leaders have been adamant that the problem stems from a culture in which students do not believe drugs such as marijuana can be harmful. The causes of that culture are many, and reversing it will take years. But drug testing students would be a start.
One could reasonably argue that drug testing is an unnecessary intrusion of students' privacy. However, the perception that the majority of students are using illegal substances is worrisome enough to warrant drastic measures. Passing a drug screening is not too steep a price to pay for the privilege of playing football for the Miners or for participating on the debate team.
It's important to note that, while failing drug tests should come with penalties, the district is not seeking to harshly punish students. Rather, it intends to use drug testing as a tool to teach, sending a message that the use of illegal substances is not OK. It would make clear that there are unwanted consequences for doing so.
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Given that goal, we urge the district to continue its current policy for drug offenders. Student-athletes at the high school caught using substances are usually forced to miss a game or two for a first offense and attend drug counseling. Similar punishments for those who fail a test would strike the right balance — it would be enough to discourage students from using drugs, but not so severe that slip-ups would take away their abilities to participate in school activities that should serve as positive influences.
Further offenses, however, should come with stiffer repercussions, such as suspension from school and being kicked off a team or club.
Testing students would be a good first step to fight drug use in schools, but school leaders cannot solve the problem alone. Parents, too, must do their part. They must teach their children that drug use, in any form, is not acceptable for teenagers. Only a community-wide effort can quash the drug culture in Park City schools.
Perhaps, one day we'll get to that point. But until students are capable of making the right decisions on their own, drug testing at school is a sensible and necessary measure.
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